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Bid to scrap energy parks plans fails

Wednesday, 11.30pm: A bid to scrap controversial proposals to develop renewable energy parks on high quality farmland near Peterborough has failed, despite attracting significant support.

A motion was put before the members of Peterborough City Council this evening (Wednesday, December 5) to drop plans to install wind turbines and solar panels on 900 acres of the council-owned land at Newborough Farm, America Farm and Morris Fen.

Cllr David Harrington, member for Newborough, who proposed the motion, called for an alternative scheme which included sites not requiring the use of so-called grade one and grade two farmland to, as he put it, “produce the same financial and environmental outcomes for the council without the consequences of the loss of livelihoods for tenant farmers”.

He said: “What is being proposed here is basically wrong.”

He added: “Where are we going to get our food from? Where are going to source our food in the future?”

Each member who voiced support for the motion was met with applause or cheers from the public gallery.

Moreover, when Cllr Nick Sandford, member for Walton, questioned whether the motion should be debated at all as it was similar to one rejected at a previous meeting, a shout of “shame” was heard from the public gallery.

Cllr Sandford said: “It might be a shame, but we have got standing orders.”

He added: “What purpose can be served by going through the same arguments again?”

Mayor of Peterborough George Simmons said, however, he had decided the motion would be heard, which was met with a “thank you, Mayor” from the public gallery.

Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, had argued the city council had a duty to provide services for its 183,000 residents, which meant bringing forward such initiatives as the renewable energy parks to help pay for them.

Cllr Chris Ash, member for Dogsthorpe, said: “I think this council has a duty to ensure high quality agricultural land is used for that purpose.”

He added: “I feel sure the council do not have to use this particular land for the purpose of building solar panels.”

Cllr Marco Cereste, leader of the Peterborough City Council, said the three sites proposed for the development had been chosen as it was necessary to have a grid connection to make the parks viable.

He stressed other council assets had been exploited, including the Town Hall itself, and echoed Cllr Seaton’s point that the authority could not consider the tenant farmer’s position at the cost of the authority as a whole.

He said: “The first priority of this council is to provide services to everybody in this city.”

The motion was defeated by 30 votes to 20, with one abstention.